Monday, January 30, 2006

So How's That Doodling Going?

For the past two weeks I have been "noodling with my doodling", as promised in my last post! I haven't started sketching my new clothing ideas yet, as I first thought. I wanted to see how rusty my drawing skills are after a 20 year hiatus. After the first two test drawings, I can safely say... I've still got it! Whew, what a relief. Since it took me several years of drawing lessons to build the skill, I really didn't want to have to start all over again. I've posted the two best sketches right here. Now that I remember how much fun sketching can be, you can bet I'll be making time to do it a bit each week. I let it go because there just weren't enough hours in the day to fit in all I wanted to do. Sketching kind of got lost at the side of the road, so to speak.

Since I know my hand can draw what my eyes see, I'll start actually doing work this week. What will that be like, I wonder? I've had such a long break that I can't think of where to begin! I guess, I'll jump feet first into the middle of some project and work my way out. I still have to limit the time I spend at any task, so I'll start with itty bitty baby steps, and see where they take me.

After my shows last Fall, I am REALLY low on my shibori scarves. Making more will be priority one. I have several of the components dyed already, I just have to sit down and match complementary pieces together and stitch 'em up. Add beads at the corners for tassels and weight, and voila, glorious art is ready for the wearing. I'll post some pix when they are done. Meanwhile, if you just can't wait to see some examples, you can visit my website at

Time to go walk the dog...

Shibori Girl

Sunday, January 08, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

As a rule, I never make New Year's resolutions because very shortly after I make them, I break them. I stopped making resolutions because I couldn't take the guilt. This year, though, I broke my rule and made three:
  1. keep my studio clean to promote good work habits
  2. get strong and healthy, and
  3. rework my older designs and make them even more appealing
Well, thanks to MarbleMan's research and persistence, we have our new vacuum to clean up our act for this new year. The studio looks like a fabric bomb went off in there, so it's time to shovel it out to prepare for this year's production. This involves getting up all those threads embedded in the studio carpeting (and pins, and beads, and...). It sounds like I'm a slob when I work, but really I'm just "focused" on the job-at-hand. So, as soon as MM stops playing with the new toy, I can get started.

2005 was a very difficult year as a result of a recurring tennis elbow. Who knew that ironing 30 yards of fabric a day was a bad idea? In April I suffered a dibilitating hand injury (to my dominant hand, at that!). My doctor ordered me to rest both injury sites for 6 months. After that I could start working for 30 minutes a day. She's saying this to someone who usually works 10 hours a day! It was torture. But now I am finally pain-free and can start my dyeing and sewing again. Crops will grow again, and the cows are finally happy.

At my last show in New York City, I had oodles of requests for jackets and blouses to be longer. So, it's time to rework the designs for that. When I use my hand it tends to cramp up on me, so part of my physical therapy for my hand is to doodle a little bit each day. My grand plan is to sketch my new clothing designs so that I can call it working.

Once the new designs are in place, it should be a little warmer outside and I can start dyeing fabric again. (The high temps now are about 50 degrees which is still a bit cold to do any substantial work). Now it's time to toddle off to do my doodling...

Shibori Girl, Fabric Mistress

Dyson vacuum not Ready For Prime Time

After you dye all that fabric, you've got to do something with it. I like to sew it into clothing, handbags and scarves, littering scraps and threads all over the carpet. Which brings me to the point: our vacuum sucks, but not enough. And the 15-year old Kenmore cannister spews dust out it's butt like the morning after bad Sushi. We needed a new one.

Consumer Reports to the rescue! They measured suck, weight, ability to scale small buildings in a single bound, whatever you need to know. Sometimes they actually write this stuff in their reports, too. :) So the challenger was the undiscovered Dyson DC14 (US$500) vs. the Eureka Boss SmartVac 4870 ($140). [Hmm, I'd say that if you're stuck with the vacuuming, you're not so smart, but perhaps you are the boss.] The Hoover WindTunnel ($300) was actually rated highest, but is a little noisier, according to CR.

First, a quick check with Amazon's feedback section. An interesting check is that the factory-reconditioned Dyson is not actually reconditioned, according to half of the recipients. Yup, the reconditioned units might be cheap to buy, but it still has the problems that folks returned them for in the first place. This says to me that Dyson is not experienced enough in manufacturing. They've got excellent ideas, but have not executed them quite right. Give them a couple of years -- I expect great things from their factories! Some folks were actually enamoured by the Dyson's pretty colors and clear chambers, but the chambers show all that extra dust collected by their whirling whirlies (no, not the type you get in grade school -- these leave your hair much nicer than a tour through the toilet) and I don't see the utility of retrieving a prized gold earing from a clear chamber vs. an opaque bag. Just split the bag. If you're vacuuming up all that many earings, perhaps you're holding the vacuum a little too high.

So off to Best Buy to actually try our own tests. CR has scientists and test engineers and loads of stastistics, but they rate the noise as a number from 1 (needs ear protection) to 5. What I want to know is if the pitch is high and whiny or low and bold. How does the noise change when I use attachments vs. carpet cleaning? Stuff CR doesn't tell you. I've got to ask Why? Have they not heard of the web, where all the stat's and your mother's age can be posted without space restrictions?

OK, so here's the test: Best Buy has a power outlet! The Dyson already dust and dirt in it, so we, well, tested (yeah, that's the word... tested!) how easy it was empty. Oops, it's really easy. Oh well, gotta clean that up. Can't have a dirty Best Buy, can we? Let's try the Dyson first. OK, gotta put it back together first (remember we emptied it's chamber). Hmm. Where's the on switch? Oh, I see: their graphic designers hide it so well that they needed to attach a little label explaing where it is. OK, the Eureka wins there with a simple international 0/1 switch. Was that so hard, Dyson? (Eureka 1, Dyson 0) OK, a vacuuming we go... HEY! What the ...? It can't clean up the stuff that just came out of it? I'm starting to think that the Twilight Zone was perhaps history, not science fiction. Maybe I didn't put it back together right, or maybe it's set wrong. Let's see: a switch for carpet vs. bare floor. That's set to carpet. No carpet pile adjustment. I recall from the Amazon reviews that it automatically adjusts for pile height, so that's OK. Well, maybe the carpet is too tough for it, so let's try the Eureka. Two passes and it's all up. Well, Eureka 2, Dyson 0.

Test 2: can the wand reach our 10 foot ceilings?
  • The Eureka has some 3 tubes and the hose, so there's only, ummm, 32 possible ways to connect them. Let's experiment... The tubes are all different thicknesses... this only connects to here... this has a little icon that says it goes on the hose... OK! 5 minutes later, we have a wand! Let's reach above our heads and voila! it reaches and the hose comes out of the bottom of the vacuum so it's going to be stable.
  • Now the Dyson. Doh! I see a hose but how do I get it out? Ah, the little label says to press this button to release the wand. There's a 12 inch tube integrated into the handle through which a 3 foot tube slides. In one position the tube is pushed down the unextended hose, keeping the normally flexible hose rigid. Cool idea. Pull the tube out of the hose, press yet another button, and the handle with it's short tube, detaches. Spiffy ergonomics, Batman, we've got a handle on the wand! But all those buttons. Can we ever remember them? Again, 5 minutes to figure it out. The hose emerges from the bottom of the main unit, like the Eureka, so it's probably stable, but many on Amazon complained about that. Perhaps this unit has been redesigned to avoid that?
Finally, there's the ongoing price, assuming nothing breaks. The Dyson has no bags, and has a washable HEPA filter. Euraka bags ($2), plus you need a new HEPA filter ($25) each 6 bags, and a new rubber belt ($6) every year. Let's say you fill a couple of bags a month (eg, you have a dog, child or husband), so that's 24 bags/year ($48) plus 4 HEPA filters ($100) plus a belt ($6). Opps. The Dyson breaks even in only 3 years. I guess we'll have to vacuum less often. :( In my mind, it's Eureka 2, Dyson 1. Of course, you could get the washable HEPA filter ($40) and cut the yearly cost from $154 to $54 (with an extra $40 the first year). That's more reasonable. Eureka 1.5, Dyson 1.

The Eureka has this carpet pile height adjustment that is not quite obvious. Seems simple enough, but it took me 5 minutes to figure out how to turn off the carpet spinner on my flat floors. The trick is to tilt the vacuum (use the foot pedal) first, then set the switch to "floor". Seems like every time you set the vacuum upright, it turns off the spinner "automagically", which is great but when you tilt it again, it tends to turn back on. And why this be on the handle, where it belongs?

Eureka wins, but Dyson will catch up, especially if they read this blog.